Invincible Quokka claim triumph in The Solent

Quokka, GBR 2215, IRC Two. Picture: Paul Wyeth /
Quokka, GBR 2215, IRC Two. Picture: Paul Wyeth /
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They may not have started the IRC Nationals as favourites but the results speak for themselves – eight races, eight wins.

Peter Rutter and the crew of the Grand Soleil 43, Quokka 8, won the 2011 Championship title, and Class 2, at a canter.

Their apparently untroubled clean sweep, however, belies difficult conditions out in The Solent.

After a benign first race last Friday, the wind began to build, getting in to the mid-20 knot range for the remainder of the three-day regatta, topping off in the mid-30s on Saturday and Sunday’s final races.

Shredded spinnakers were the order of the day and the fleet gradually diminished in size as damage and a desire to preserve crews and sails saw many yachts bow out.

Quokka have been there or thereabouts in previous IRCs but made sure of it this time out.

‘I’m incredibly proud,’ said Rutter.

‘I said to them “we have to nail it this time” and they have worked their cotton socks off.

‘I am very, very pleased and it is nice to have got this one finally put away.

‘The crew work has been stunning.’

The start of the regatta saw most attention focused on an arguably more competitive Class 1, where three yachts stayed in contention almost to the last.

A first race timing error by the afterguard aboard the new Ker 40 Keronimo – on its first inshore regatta – would come back to haunt them.

A series of bullets put them back in the game but a retirement in race six soaked up there discard and their 10th place in the first race dropped them to third overall.

Their regatta, though, will be remembered for a near pitchpole in the final run of the final race.

Tactician Simon Shaw said: ‘A big black cloud was chasing us down the run and we’d just changed on to the number four and gybed to come into the mark when the front of the gust hit and the wind went from 26 to pretty much 40 knots.

‘The boat instantly jumped into the wave we were following – the rudder was fully out of the water.

‘You are on top of the world looking down at the boat, holding on to the runners with your legs dangling down into the cockpit going “hang on I thought this only happened on catamarans”.’

The tack fitting on the spinnaker eventually exploded, wiping out all the stanchions on Keronimo’s starboard side.

‘We lost one guy off each side and one off the bow,’ said Shaw.

‘So we scooped everyone back in, wrestled the chute down over the back, pulled the jib up, bore away and carried on with the race.’

Anthony O’Leary’s Antix had fewer dramas, some solid scores and went into the final day leading Class 1.

But they were pipped by a single point overall by a late charging Tonnerre de Breskens, who recovered from a poor first day to put together a run of four bullets.

Also finishing on a charge in Class 3 was Michael Brough’s Bavaria Match 38 Steady Barker, with two wins on the final day.

But it still left them three points adrift of Mike Bridges’ Elan 37, Elaine, the overall class winner.

IRC 4 saw Adam Gosling’s Corby 30 Yes! also claim two bullets on the final day to win their class overall, albeit just three points ahead of Michael Kershaw’s half-tonner, Chimp.